The New Cupcake? Meh.

Cupcake shops are as ubiquitous as plain ole bakeries these days. I completely understand the appeal, considering I am probably a cupcake addict myself. I mean, here are just a few of the advantages of cupcakes:

  1. Cupcakes are made of cake. And generally lots and lots of icing.
  2. Cupcakes can be some of the cutest desserts you’ve ever seen. They can resemble animals, flowers, or other inanimate objects. For ridiculously cute examples, see Bakerella’s website.
  3. It goes without saying that you don’t have to share a cupcake.
  4. You can buy yourself a cupcake when you can’t afford an entire cake.

I could go on and on. But the point of this blog is not really cupcakes—but another little treat that I suppose is the “new cupcake.” They’re called macarons, and apparently Blair Waldorf eats them.

Can I tell you the truth? I’m not sure what these macarons are supposed to taste like. I live in small town that is quite lovely, but that might be a li’l bit laggin’ when it comes to the sophisimatacated tastes of, say, New York or Paris? Anyway, in my internet wanderings I’ve come across photos like this:

photo from clevernettle.com

and this.

photo from laduree.fr

photo from laduree.fr

Holy schneikes. Have your eyes ever feasted upon anything so adorable?

I’ve been wanting to try to make these myself for a while, so here’s photodocumentation of the effort. As I said, I can’t exactly tell whether or not these turned out the way they’re supposed to, but I can say that they looked pretty darn cute for at least a couple of hours. If I were to try these again, I’d do some things differently—but here’s round 1 as it actually occurred, so those of you who’ve had unquestionable success with these can let me know what to change.

The Macaron Shell (adapted from Martha Stewart, Tartelette, and other internet versions)

  • 3 egg whites, room temperature (taken out and left on counter all day—apparently older eggs hold air better, and leaving egg whites out overnight is ok for this?)
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 3/4 cup of ground-up almonds
  • pinch of cream of tartar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • handful dried strawberries

Start by grinding up slivered almonds into powder. Do the same thing with your handful of dried strawberries. I only have a wee food processor, so I had to do these separately. Ideally, you could grind up the almonds WITH the strawberries and WITH the powdered sugar to get a nice, thorough mixin’.

Stir up all the dry ingredients. In the meantime, whip your eggs whites with the stand mixer (and with the wire whisk). Once the whites are foamy, add the pinch of cream of tartar until soft peaks form.

Dye them pink with a teensy bit of food coloring. Of course you can dye these any color, but I wanted these to be pink since they were strwberry-flavored.

Now it’s time to add in the dry ingredients. The recipes suggest “folding” everything together as lightly as possible, so as not to collapse the egg whites. Don’t overmix, I suppose, is the general suggestion.

Now comes the fun part! Load up a piping bag with a round tip. I used a jumbo piping bag, with a tip roughly this size. I suppose the sizes have names and numbers, but I don’t have a clue what this size is. Medium-large?

I guess the shell mixture ought to be a little bit thick, yet a little bit oozy. Gross? Am I doing this wrong? Still not sure.

Whatever the case, I piped them onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet like so. This is a gigantic cookie sheet, by the way, and each little dollop is about 1 inchin diameter (some smaller, some bigger).

Kinda cute, right? Let them rest for a little while (anywhere between 30 minutes and a couple of hours). I only waited 20 minutes because I was in a hurry.

This recipe suggested heating the oven to 375F; placing the macarons in the oven; then immediately reducing the temp to 325F. Bake for around 10 minutes. The hard part is making sure you don’t brown the shells, so keep an eye on them.

So these shells are hardly perfect, but I think they’re no so bad for a first try, eh?

I’d offer you the recipe for the icing filler that I used, but it was a little watery and kind of a kitchen flop. What would be the point of sharing that? Basically any type of jam, chocolate, or buttercream would be an appropriate filling for these babies, so use your imagination.

So it wasn’t exactly success, but it wasn’t exactly total failure. They were edible, and my friends didn’t complain. And yet, the icing I made was mushy, and I guess I expected the shells to be crunchier than they were. It was a heckuva lot of work—and as it turns out, I’d probably just prefer buying them than making my own. But then again, maybe I’m too quick to give up.

What do you guys think? Any tips for macarons? What’d I do wrong? And by the way, what are these supposed to taste like anyhow?

Love love,

Joce


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8 responses to “The New Cupcake? Meh.

  1. Even if you don’t count this a success, I am utterly impressed. I have often asked questions about macarons because (a) I watch gossip girl and (b) the wedding industry seems to be all about them for the last couple of years. In my head, though, I never pictured them tasting very good. I thought they’d be hard, but Blair’s seem soft. Anyway, I have nothing to contribute here other than I’ve seen these many times, I think they’re pretty, I’ve never tasted them, and I’m not sure I want to.

  2. cute! pretty!! DELICIOUS LOOKING. i’m glad that you also appreciate the fact that cupcakes are made of cake :). xoxo

  3. Macaroons are delicious! I had never had them prior to visiting my stepbrother in Paris’ and we went to the apparent original and super classy home of the macaroon, Laduree. Here is their website, which is in French, but communicates further cuteness regarding macaroons never the less:http://www.laduree.fr. I would say that the macaroon has a fairly firm but somewhat chewy texture, light, but not crunchy. Tasty! Does that help? I think yours look VERY fancy and I am impressed that you tried it, as I would be super intimidated to attempt such a delicacy!

  4. Sadly (or not so sadly?) the thing I remember most about my trip to Paris? Chocolate macaron. My European love affair…one day we shall be reunited. . .

  5. OK, you all have helped me a lot! These definitely were chewier than crunchier, so maybe I wasn’t too far off. I think I just expected them to be like flavored merengues. I’m not a particularly good baker, and I’m not good with a thousand complicated cooking steps either, so maybe I’ll just leave this one to the experts.

    Mandy, as always, thanks for the support. Jenny, that is why I like you so much. And Emil, that website is droolsville.
    *Joce

  6. Jocelyn! I just found your’s’alls blog (again, I think)!
    Hubs and I get Bon Appetite and a couple issues ago they had a big spread called “The New Cupcake?” And it was all about macaroons.
    If you can’t find it online I will see if I can scan it and send it to you. I have yet to be let down by a BA recipe.
    Those looked pretty adorable, though.
    And I love your reasons for loving the cupcake, especially the “you don’t have to share.”

    • Molly! We are neighbors now! And I just added your blog to my google reader so I can see what you and Hubs are up to

      Is this the recipe you’re talking about? http://tinyurl.com/265knpm This one calls for hazelnut powder too, which I definitely did not use (but I think it would be good).

      Seriously, I’d love to meet in the middle sometime. We really are far away from home!
      Love, Joce

  7. Yes, that’s it! The article compares whoopie pies (which I love) to macaroons. And also scoffs at ubiquitous cupcakes. They choose macaroons to the wp, but I haven’t tried a macaroon yet so I can’t agree or disagree.
    We should get together sometime. I don’t even know where the middle is for us, probably the middle of nowhere!

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